A Laceweb Paper Prepared for the Sixth International Holistic Health Conference Convened by the Faculty of Medicine, Monash University at Cumberland Resort - Lorne Victoria, Australia




Last Updated April 2014.

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This Laceweb paper has been evolved by oral historians and enablers action researching within an informal network of indigenous, small minority and intercultural healers for over 25 years. This network has been evolving in the Oceania, East Asia, Australasia region since the early sixties. Action research themes include sociology of knowledge, clinical sociology, behavioural science, sociomedicine, sociotherapy, psychotherapy, neuro-psychology and the healing implications of psycho-neurobiology.


This paper explores sociomedicine and sociotherapy as modes of preventative and remedial holistic healing. Australian Aboriginal use of sociomedicine for social cohesion is briefly introduced. The psychosocial wellbeing implications of the life-ways of the Tikopia Island people of the Solomon Islands are outlined. Aboriginal and Tikopian sociomedicine and sociotherapy is discussed as models for the setting up and running of a psychiatric unit called Fraser House in North Ryde, Sydney between 1959 and 1968. The paper then traces that Unit's influence in the evolving of an informal network of indigenous socio-therapeutic healers. The sociomedicine and sociotherapy ways of the Rataiku people of Bougainville are briefly outlined. The paper ends with healing implications for wounded healers - in joining in sociotherapy with other wounded healers. The experiential workshop at the Holistic Health Conference provide a practical, joyful, playful, whimsical, enchanting, replicable experience of sociotherapy - flirting with life.


For Australian Indigenous people living as nomadic hunter-gatherers, social cohesion is a central component of healing. The concept 'sociomedicine' is implicit in Transcultural Psychiatrist John Cawte's book, 'Medicine is the Law' and other writings (Cawte, J., 1974, 1996). If enough people in a nomadic group are too sick to travel and there is little or no local food and water - there's big trouble. The bush remedies for a wide range of troubles are both widely known and widely used in the group. However, if sickness is deemed to have its source in social trouble - if social cohesion is under threat - sociomedicine is used by only a few law people who know the ways. The focus for healing or prevention is the whole group and all become involved. This holistic sociomedicine perspective is maintained when Australian Aboriginals and Islanders use the 'combined' term, 'social, emotional, cultural, and spiritual health', rather than the 'mainstream' term 'mental health'.

The Tikopia

In a different indigenous context, the following story has been passed about the Tikopia Island people of the Solomon Islands having socio-healing and social wellbeing woven into the fabric of everyday life-ways.

When anthropologist Raymond Firth was exploring their ways in the 1930's, the 1,200 Tikopians spoke of themselves as 'tatou na Tikopia' - 'We the Tikopia', to declare their unity and distinguish themselves from other islanders (Firth, R., 1957).

The Tikopia celebrated difference to maintain unity. They have social unifying processes that recognise, acknowledge, play with, respect and celebrate what Firth called, 'cleavages' (difference/diversity). Their socio-healing-wellbeing processes repeatedly involve 'unifying-cleavage'. Some examples: They engage in ceremonial distributions of property, where the principle is that as far as possible, goods go to the villagers on the most opposite side of the island - to those most different. There are periodic friendly inter-generational competitive assemblies among those from differing villages, clans, and valleys. At these wellbeing gatherings, the Tikopians engage in friendly competitive dancing and games, and share food and friendly fireside banter.

Tikopia Island at heart is a small extinct volcano with a crater lake. There is an intricate system of reciprocal exchange spread like a network over the whole community of communities. This reciprocity is continually 'binding (unifying) people of different (cleavered) villages and both sides of the island (the two major regions) in close alliance' (Firth, R., 1957).

According to the stories, the men from the East only marry the women of the West. The opposite applies to the men of the West. That is, people only marry those most different. The new brides live with their husband's family. As land is passed from mother to daughter, the couple set up gardens on land belonging to her mother, - that is, on the opposite side to where the couple are living.

Each morning all the gardening couples from the East get up at sunrise, bath and have breakfast. They then make the climb to the top and wait viewing the crater lake. The sun rises a little later for those on the West and when the couples from the West reached the top, the other partners act as hosts as they have a small party for a while. They also exchange news and banter before going to their respective gardens.

The process is reversed in the evening. The sun sets first for those gardening in the East. So they climb first and wait to be hosts for another party. There is more chatting, drumming and dancing in the late afternoon light, and as the tropical sun set in the West, they all return to their respective villages. There they have exchanges of vegetables for fish with the villagers who are the seafarers - another different group to celebrate with. Often these beach exchanges are occasions for more dancing and friendly play. After dinner the party  resumes on the beach or perhaps some walk around headlands and across the smaller ridges to visit villagers in the neighbouring valleys.

In all this celebrated difference, villagers are always in constant contact as they passed each other on the mountain trails and meet on the beaches. There are multiple unifying links between valleys and across ridges. The Tikopia people celebrate their diversity to create social unity and cohesion. Their communal living and mores help constitute and sustain individual and communal psycho-social wellbeing.

Notice that their psycho-social wellbeing processes are woven completely into every aspect of their lives together. There is constant linking within and between people of differing generations, gender, clan, village, locality, status (chief/non chief families) and occupation (that is, differing sociological categories). Their lives create public space. Public space is community space - where people are in continual close social exchange - where friendships blossom and are sustained by regular contact (Cf. Tönnies' Gessellschaft (Tönnies, 1955)). The top of the mountain, along all the mountain trails, within the villages, on the beaches - these are all public spaces - places for sharing, caring, and nurturing.

Social news is continually circulating. Tikopia life is not without some contention and strife. Any strife soon becomes common knowledge. Typically, it is interrupted before it can start. There is always a support network to call on to resolve any issue. The common stock of practical wisdom is so readily passed on, that it is widely held in the communities. People know 'what works'. Socio-healing is not an 'add on'. All of this socially embedded wellbeing action is pervasively holistic. These socio-healing actions are preventive. They sustain wellbeing. They are the norm. They constitute their good life. Their social life world is 'self authenticating' (Pelz, 1974, p.6) and self-healing and sustaining societal, clan, village, and personal wellness. It is therapeutic community in celebratory links with other therapeutic communities. With dysfunction at a minimum, the term 'therapeutic community' more appropriately becomes, 'wellbeing community'.


Have you and others created your own urban/rural village? Was there any rejection by you of any action implied by these questions? 'Wouldn't want to do that.' 'People are trouble.' 'They're not my kind.'

Reflect on your own life. How does it match or differ from the Tikopia? How much public space is there? How much socialising occurs in these public spaces? How much socialising do you do in public spaces? How extensive is your personal face-to-face relating in social network(s)? How many people can you call on for support? For different kinds of support? How many sources of wisdom do you have? How many close friends? How many of different generations to yourself? How many have local knowings? How much of what is happening in your street - in your neighbourhood - do you link into? How much celebrating do you do? How often? With whom? How much do you share what you have with others? How close are you to local geography? How grounded are you? How often are you linked to the cycles of sunrise and sunset? How often do you engage with others very different to yourself? How often do you celebrate difference? How often do you play and rejoice?


Consider the Tikopia way of life. It presents a practical working model for exploring sociomedicine, sociotherapy and therapeutic community - a practical model for restoring psycho-social health and wellbeing in dysfunctional people, families and communities - in whole societies. This possibility was recognised back in 1959 by a psychiatrist, Dr. Neville Yeomans. As founding director, he set up a psychiatric unit called Fraser House in the North Ryde Psychiatric Hospital (Clark and Yeomans, 1969). It is little known that Yeomans modelled the Unit upon the socio-processes of Tikopia. This was not mentioned by Clark and Yeomans in their book. As well, Dr. Yeomans had a childhood where he was often in the nurturing care of Australian Aboriginals. Lost as a young child in the Northern Territory outback, Yeomans owes his life to an Aboriginal tracker. He experienced the healing power of their sociomedicine and introduced aspects of this healing way into Fraser House as well.

Only a brief over-view of Fraser House is possible in a paper of this size. Information has been posted on the Internet at Laceweb Home Page.

Fraser House was an 80 bed residential Unit taking male and female patients in equal number. Balanced numbers of people from all diagnostic categories were admitted. As well, half of the people admitted were from the prison system. Dr. Yeomans wanted, in lay terms, to have both the 'mad' and the 'bad'. He wanted to test whether it was possible for these two groups together, to help themselves back to functionality. If this could be done, then it would be a micro-model for the healing of a society broken and traumatised by war. From the results of Fraser House and subsequent experience, it seems possible that self help socio-therapy may be a model for healing places like East Timor and Bougainville, where the sheer size of psycho-social problems following conflict would stretch conventional health and trauma support services beyond capacity. (Refer Laceweb Self Help Action

Fraser House was structured so that, in a massive number of micro-ways, it was a therapeutic community. It was not just setting up a 'unit' where people then tried to make it therapeutic and where something called 'community' hopefully developed. It was socially structured so that people's common humanity meant that they had to change - it was therapeutic. ‘Therapeutic Community’ was not just a name; it was a Community that was Therapeutic. 

In the forward to Clark and Yeoman's book, Dr. Maxwell Jones, the pioneer of therapeutic communities in the United Kingdom said of Fraser House, 'given such a carefully worked out structure, evolution is an inevitable consequence'.

Four senior staffers (a psychologist, an anthropologist/psychologist, a psychiatrist and a senior charge nurse) who was interviewed, all agreed that in Fraser House, all staff were 'in therapy' along with the patients and outpatients - it was inevitable. The staff-patient distinction was maintained, though not in Goffman's 'Asylum' terms (Goffman, E., 1961). Staff were 'enablers' supporting 'residents' in self help. All involved were being transformed by the Fraser House experience.

Such was Fraser House's reputation in the new field of 'community psychiatry' that Fraser House became the place providing community mental health training in community psychiatry for students preparing to become members of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry. Students were allocated to Fraser House for six month periods. Social worker students from both the University of Sydney and the University of NSW were also trained.

A precondition for admittance to Fraser House as a resident was that friends and family of the patient were to regularly attend both Big and Small therapy groups as outpatients. In the early 60's, the Unit was having between 10,000 and 13,000 outpatient visits a year. The focus of therapy was the patient-family-friend network. The primary healing process was 'corrective emotional experience' emerging from struggling with, and discovering how to live close together well in therapeutic community.

Big Group was held morning and night for one hour on weekdays. All staff, including cleaners and administrators, attended Big Group along with patients and family/friend outpatients - typically around 160-180 people (with a maximum attendance of 300!). People were literally shoulder to shoulder and audience to other's change-work. Moveable platforms made a two tiered amphitheatre effect. Big Group lasted exactly one hour. Big Group would be active from the moment people sat down, till finish was called. Behaviour was tightly controlled by the Big Group Leader and by internalised group norms relating to wellbeing. It was not a T Group. Initially Dr. Yeomans led big group. A number of senior staff became very skilled in leading Big Group.

In keeping with the Tikopia 'cleavered-unities' concept, dysfunctional patient networks were cleavered so that they could be restructured in functional ways, as a reformed unity, or disbanded; there were also processes for constituting a new functional network for a patient. A key component of this cleavering was the combination of Big and Small therapy Groups.

Immediately after both AM and PM Big Group and a small refreshment break, residents and outpatients would be divided into small groups of between 10 and 18 (depending on outpatient attendance).

The daily division of family friendship networks within small groups was based upon a rotation of six sociological categories. For example, on one day, people would be divided by locality. This meant that patients and outpatients would have scope to form friendships with people from their own locality in Sydney. Largely as a result of just this process, most patients left Fraser House with a restructured family friendship network of around 70 people! Typically, these people had gained highly refined social and healing skills. Some ex-patients so missed the Fraser House Group experience that they started the self-help group called 'Recovery', which became 'Grow', a self help group that has spread internationally.

Other categories used for dividing up Big Group into small groups were (i) age, (ii) married/single status, (iii) kinship, (iv) social order (manual, clerical, semi-professional, and professional), and (v) age and sex (cf. Tikopia).

Sketch of a Fraser House Small Group based on Age by Harry Campbell

The Unit was a set of buildings joined by covered walkways stretching for over 200 metres. An administration block was in the middle (including the big group room at one end). A double story dormitory was at either end of the Administration block.


The Unit was designed (contrary to Dr. Yeoman's intention) as separate male and female units with separate dining rooms at either end. Dr. Yeoman saw this separation of the sexes as isomorphic with cleavered dysfunctional community. Once the Unit was under way, Dr. Yeomans integrated both male and female Units and used one dining room as the dining room. The other dining room was set up as the games and recreation room. Separate male and female rooms were spread throughout the building. This meant that there was a continual flow of people from one end of the Unit to another. This approximated the mountain trails of Tikopia. The dining room, the recreation room, big room and all passageways were 'public space' where social contact was inevitable. Neville was very attuned to the links between topography, social topography and the geo-social.


While modelled on Indigenous ways, Fraser House generated many innovative sociotherapy and sociomedicine processes. For example, eight family units were set up within Fraser House allowing full family residential healing. Fraser House may well have been a World first in providing full family therapeutic community. Other innovative aspects of Fraser House will be discussed below and in later papers to be posted on the Internet site mentioned previously.

In Fraser House their living together, tasks were allocated to those who could not do them - so they could learn - with the support, forbearance and patience of all. And if people's initial incompetence was a source of anger and annoyance in others, then these others had to learn to live with it and/or change their own responses.

Patients and Outpatients alike were given the role of assuming responsibility for their own healing. One by one, patient committees were set up and some aspect of the Unit's administration was handed over to these patient-run committees. Ultimately, every aspect of the administration was administered by the patients and outpatients through the staff-resident committee process. This freed up all staff to have a healing, and healing support role. For patients, it was pervasively self-help and mutual-help. They learned how to heal themselves and each other, as well as how to administer a very large organisation. They also administered their own little shop and used the funds to buy and run a red Volkswagen Kombi van. Patients used this van to set up Australia's first telephone suicide crisis hotline and call out service (influencing the start up of 'lifeline) and were regularly called out to the Gap on Sydney's South Head to talk potential suiciders out of jumping off the cliff often in the early hours of the morning

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Sheer Cliffs at the Gap

They also used the van to start Australia's first domiciliary home visit service. Patients (up to six at a time) who were within weeks of returning home themselves were making home calls on ex-patients to resolve any issues they and/or their family and friends were having. The domiciliary team were supporting those who had left before the members of the team had left Fraser House themselves.

As an example of delegating to those who can't do something, an incorrigible thief was intentionally placed in charge of the little shop and as anticipated, stole incessantly. This threatened the viability of both the domiciliary van visits and the telephone crisis hotline service. The other patients brought his stealing up in Big Group. The thief had to live with 180 people, who were very mad or very bad. This social milieu quickly sorted out and stopped the thief's stealing. The mainstream norm of 'madness being expected, and accepted in patients by both staff and patients' was dropped. The new norm was established that 'no madness or badness is tolerated by any staff, patient or out-patient'. Any breach of this norm was noted and interrupted by both patients and staff, and/or brought up within Big and Small Groups.

Initially, patients could only stay six months. This was later reduced to 12 weeks. This was to ensure that people started immediately to get on with their personal change. Upon leaving the Unit, the timing for possible return to Fraser House would be negotiated with each patient. Patients could only return three times.

Another mirroring of Tikopia ways was that Fraser House established many links and outreaches within the local community. Dr. Yeomans and others were continually speaking about Fraser House at functions, and inviting visitors to Fraser House. It was the first institution in Australia to identify surrounding suburbs as an area of 'special interest' - 'catchment areas'.

During the early days of Fraser House, the Psychiatric Research Study Group was set up by Dr. Yeomans on the grounds of the North Ryde Hospital, adjacent Fraser House. This Group met fortnightly and was a forum for the discussion and exploration of innovative healing ideas. The study group networked for, and attracted, very talented people. Students of psychiatry, medicine, psychology, sociology, social work, pastoral work, criminology and education attended from the University of NSW and University of Sydney, and other places. For example, prison officers and parole officers with whom Neville had been working within the prison and corrective system (as another Fraser House outreach) also attended the Study Group. This study group was itself sociotherapy and evolved as a support network. Students and others would present papers and passionate discussion would follow. In the spirit of the times (early 60's) many of the attendees could not, or would not discuss their ideas within their respective university departments. Some were scared of presenting certain of their papers in the university environment because of their innovative and groundbreaking content. Some had tried and could not get an audience for their ideas.

The Study Group provided a space where ideas that would in all probability have been rejected out-of-hand in other forums would be enthusiastically received and discussed. Anything raised that seemed to fit the milieu in Fraser House was immediately tried. Everything at Fraser House was 'tentative' and could be reviewed, modified, or dropped if it was not working, or if something better was found.

Margaret Mead the anthropologist was a co-founder of the World Federation of Mental Health. Mead attended Fraser House and chaired both Big Group and a Small Group when she informally visited Fraser House in the 60's. Mead stated that she considered Fraser House the most advanced therapeutic community she had visited anywhere in the World. Margaret Mead also chaired the Psychiatric Research Study Group on the same visit.

Dr Yeomans accepted every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in NSW mental institutions into Fraser House. From Fraser House almost all were returned to their family networks back in the community.

Fraser House was pervasively subjected to empirical research by both an internal and external research team (Bruen, W., 1968; Clark, A. W. & Yeomans N. T., 1969; Webb, R. A. J. & Bruen W. J. 1968; Yeomans, N., 1961; Yeomans, N., 1961a; Yeomans N., Clark A. W., Cockett M., & Gee K. M., 1970). Fraser House costs were way below alternative treatments and the rate of return and length of stay, were significantly below. Bayview House within Cullen Park in NSW was modelled on Fraser House by Dr Madew. Research on Bayview also found that costs and treatment effects were significantly superior to alternative treatments (Madew L., Singer G., & MacIndoe, I., 1966). George Singer went on to be appointed to the Foundation Chair of Psychological Science at La Trobe University in 1972. From 1973 to 1978 he also served as Dean of the School of Behavioural Science and as Director of the influential Brain-Behaviour Research Institute (BBRI) which he established in the School at La Trobe University.

Paul and Lentz, (1977) based their United States research into therapeutic community on aspects of the Fraser House model. They found that their psycho-social change programs were significantly ahead of the hospital group on all measures.


After leaving Fraser House in the late sixties, Dr. Yeomans, in his new role as the first Director of Community Mental Health in NSW, set up the first community mental health centre in NSW. This was in the vestry at the back of the Methodist Church in Oxford Street in Paddington. It was perhaps the first of such centres in Australia. Mangold, in his delightful photographic record of the history of the Paddington Bazaar speaks of Dr. Yeomans being the primary inspiration for realising Reverend Peter Holden's dream of 'villaging the church' (Mangold, 1993, p4). Dr. Yeomans' suggestion was to surround the Paddington Community Mental Health Centre and the Church with a Saturday community bazaar. This was fully consistent with the Fraser House model of imbedding the Unit within the local community - and resonant with Tikopia way. Paddington Bazaar thrives to this day.

http://www.ozexplorer.com.au/pad_ba_b.jpgPhoto of Paddington Markets

The psychiatrist Professor Max Kamien discusses Aboriginal human relations workshops modelled on Fraser House Big Group and facilitated by Dr. Yeomans. These were held in Armidale and Grafton in NSW during 1971-73 (Kamien M. 1978). Eddie Mabo was one of the attendees at these gatherings.

Socio-therapy models evolved at Fraser House have since been picked up and extended by an informal network of indigenous and small minority healers. This network is called by some 'the Laceweb. This Network has been slowly evolving throughout the Oceania, East Asia Australasia region. Energy is growing towards these Fraser House and Laceweb socio-therapy and socio-healing insights, processes and  practices been used in supporting tens of thousands of Bougainville people traumatised by over ten years of crisis on that Island. It is resonant that this healing possibility on Bougainville is not many sea miles from the Island of Tikopia - the inspiration for Fraser House. Action is also evolving around Safe Havens near Cairns and Darwin in Northern Australia


From deep within Bougainville may be found another example of sociomedicine and sociotherapy as a way of life. I speak of the Rataiku people who live in the South of Bougainville. Some of their oral history has been passed to me by Bougainville people born in that region. The name is pronounced 'Rat Tay E Queue'. 'Rataiku' simultaneously means a distinct people, place, way of life, language, way of relating with loving wisdom, and most importantly, being and doing all of the foregoing.

Rataiku as 'place' is only a 300 acres clearing in the bottom of a valley surrounded by thick jungle. There are dwellings for 700 people with gardens interspersed. The dense terrain holds them close together. From Rataiku, narrow paths radiate in five directions. Apart from these paths, the jungle is so dense, no one can roam more than a few metres into it. The five paths go to the surrounding territory and communities of five different language groups. The Rataiku are in the centre. Every Rataiku speaks Rataiku and each of the other five languages. In the centre of Rataiku is a sports field - a place of many reconcilings between neighbouring peoples who would come to this special place for mediation therapy by Rataiku peace healers.

Rataiku is the source of three highly prized commodities - special nuts which grow only in Rataiku, carry bags made from a special fibre tree growing only in their village, and thirdly, high grade pottery. All five language groups travel to Rataiku to trade items for these three commodities.

Rataiku chiefs are respected. Rataiku people follow the chief's ideas. However, chiefs behave as they are first among equals. If chiefs from any of the neighbouring five peoples visit their village, Rataiku chiefs humbly disappear to the gardens and allow other village members to be hosts.

A central concept and pervasive aspect of the Rataiku way of life is 'haharusingo'. It means 'loving wisdom in action'. Another is 'horuro' meaning 'visiting to give'. A third concept is 'apaapaatu' meaning 'visiting to give and receive'. Respectful humour and jokes are a pervasive part of Rataiku life and hearty belly laughs ring out through the valley during day and night.

All carry-bags and their contents belong to all Rataiku. Anyone returning from their gardens with fresh vegetables will share the contents with everyone they meet on the way home. They meet others with carry bags, so all get a bit of everyone's produce.

During the conflict, the population swelled to three times the size as people sought refuge there. Rataiku, as 'sanctuary', was never violated by the PNG forces, the BRA or any faction. There was never trouble between different opposing factions staying at Rataiku as refugees. Rataiku was always respected despite awful atrocities occurring throughout the Island. Despite the chaos elsewhere on Bougainville, the conflict had little impact on the Rataiku way of life. On one occasion early in the conflict, the PNG forces swept into the valley. After being with the Rataiku only a short time they recognised 'they had no reason to be in this special place with these special people' and they all packed up and left. Rataiku 'haharusingo' or loving wisdom in action had worked its way with PNG forces. With all of these refugees coming and going in successive waves, the Rataiku way of life was unchanged. The Rataiku people are universally described as 'good people'. Imagine a way of living - loving wisdom in action - which is so palpable that it interrupts and stops the awful carnage of war in its tracks. Powerful stuff!


Notice how sociomedicine and socio-therapy ways link people together in their place. Tikopia island life was up and over the three dimensional normal curves between valleys and across the island. The Rataiku were placed in the middle of the jungle in the middle of the valley in the middle of their neighbours. The Australian Aboriginals were linked together with the harsh vastness of their place. Each of their 'cohesive' ways merged them in their geography. Our Western life in many ways tends to sever us from our geography and each other - our cars, our houses, our public transport, our buildings, our artificial climates and processed air.

The 7:45AM train on the Hurstbridge line comes to mind. Jammed in like sardines we were; and all eyes just managed to miss each other and ignore each other's presence. And then the train stops between Victoria Park and Collingwood. Silent train, silent people. Long wait. After time a conversation starts, then another. Soon a hundred conversations are under way and people who had stood beside another for ten years were discovering they had a common interest in fly-fishing, or growing dahlias, or in finding a mate. We eventually abandoned the faulty train, helping each other down. We all laughed, and en masse all lost in deep conversations, we walked off together towards the Collingwood station. The stiff breeze was hardly noticed. I wonder how many did get married after that morning's chat?

Another story about trains - Rowan Ireland, a Melbourne sociologist had been researching in the late eighties an urban renewal social movement among the shanty town residents on the outskirts of São Paulo in Brazil. Ireland writes of his returning to São Paulo to investigate the social movement ten years later (Ireland, 1998). The first part of his article paints a very gloomy picture. 'I had lost sight of my social movement. I would find myself recording only happenings of chaos, breakdown and anomic disintegration'. He describes conditions as 'pathetic'. The destitute people were consumed with survival from one day to the next. They were surrounded by despair and criminal violence. The destitute were so concerned with sheer survival that there was no energy for any 'social movement'.

Ireland had been regularly travelling backwards and forwards by train along the 55 kilometres between the out-lying shantytowns and São Paulo. While so travelling he had been engrossed in his academic reflections as to what could have killed the social movement he had been studying.

Then there is this delightful moment in the train where Ireland suddenly looks up and sees his social movement. He is surrounded by it. Instead of it being dead as he thought, it is very much alive and well in this public space of the workers' train. He had been blind to what was surrounding him. Now before him he suddenly sees a profusion of zest and community, avid conversations and debates; orators talking on all manner of subjects; the repartee of hecklers and the belly laughs of the audiences. There were also poets, musicians, jugglers and other buskers - beggars’ banquets and a thriving paupers' market, extending even to coals-roasted peanuts from the kerosene tin.

Here on the train, alive and well, Ireland finds ongoing 'invention' and 'structuration' - change potential bubbling within everyday socio-cultural life. Here in front of his very eyes was sociomedicine at work. It was his social movement, but in a different form. Perhaps this form had existed all along and he like other theorists just hadn't seen it. Now instead of power being the focus – it is all about social relating and creating new social forms. Among the human energy on the train all manner of happenings and ideas were being passed on as stories - fragments of subjective experience were being melded for the possibilities of enriching life.


All of the patients and outpatients at Fraser House were wounded healers. Dr Yeomans himself was a wounded healer - suffering the aftermath of two major childhood traumas. The Laceweb is made up of wounded healers. Evolving Laceweb action with West Papuans, Bougainvillians, East Timorese all involve wounded healers supporting each other towards wellbeing. The term 'wounded healer' goes back to the character 'Chiron' in Greek mythology. Chiron a centaur (half man half horse god) was twice wounded. He was rejected at birth by his mother. He didn't look right - back-end decidedly like a horse! Couldn't she remember the father? As an immortal, Chiron placed himself in the bind of having a painful wound that would never heal.

Centaurs were typically rambunctious fellows who did not get on with humans very well at all. Chiron, as archetypal healer, was very different from other Centaurs. An outsider among his own, he drew on his experience of his own suffering to bring very special qualities to his healing role among humans. The word ‘Chiropractic’ comes from Chiron.

At the Healing Arts Festival energised by Dr. Marc Cohen in December 1998, there were many wounded healers. Decided then to hold the 'Wounded Healer' workshop at the December, 1999 Healing Arts Festival. Thirty five attended the workshops - all wounded healers in their own way. How many others are around? Some set high standards for themselves - putting their own needs second. Some had the notion, 'I must be excellent before I can be of any use to others', in the context of denying their own need for personal healing. Incidentally, the campout ambience of the Healing Arts Festival is resonant with Tikopia socio-therapy and is thoroughly recommended. Ask anyone who has experienced it!

And so, drawing upon some of the sharings from the Wounded healer workshops - what of your self-nurturing? Simple things usually. Smelling the flowers. Watching the sun set. A long aromatherapy soak in a warm bath. Soft candlelight dinners. So many may come to mind. Though how long since we have done any of them? And, with the foregoing in mind, what support networks do we have for ourselves? What of simple fun? Gatherings and celebration? Or is all this 'wasting time'. To what end. Think of the Tikopia. The joy of the extended friendship - days (daze) passed in the company of friends - good conversation, relaxing. And the possibility of 'the profound' emerging from 'the trivial'.

'Rejoicing'. Interesting word - to 're-joy' ourselves.

So in this Wounded Healer - Wounded Group Workshop at the Holistic Healing Conference, and indeed throughout the whole Conference, we have opportunity to create a healing mood. That's a micro-bit from sociotherapy - 'mood' can heal and shared moods may heal a multitude. The German language has a word for it. - 'stimmung' (Pelz, J, 1974, p84). 'Stimmung' means 'a mood that colours or constitutes reality - gives it meaning'. It also has connotations of 'being in tune with' or 'attuned' to others and the context. 'Stimmen' is to tune an instrument until it is 'tuned' correctly and hence able to convey 'stimmung'.

And during the workshop we can explore healing storytelling - as I have been doing in this paper - and sociohealing - moving, for example, into enchanting mode - being playful with profound respect for each other - as princes and princesses of the realm - respecting the sovereignty of each other - as in the Celtic tradition. And we can notice what this frame setting does to us. The de-framing - the letting go - in merging together in emerging contexts for possibilities - the organic unfoldings as alternative metaphor. The subtle shifts to sense of time and other things - as all is linked to all.

As we said, in other words - the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone - and for all this, the wounded healers can have fun with the wounded group, for celebrating the wellbeing of all - if all that makes sense at some level in the healing use of words.

And after we return to everyday life we may want to explore creating low or no-cost sharing gatherings where we can revel in each other's life experience and nurturing. Ring a few friends. Tell them where to meet. Bring food to share. Have a party. Network with nurturers and have a day of mini-workshops. Perhaps start a Holistic Healing Research Study Group that meets fortnightly as per the Fraser House model. A link to one such energy - Spiral Sunday. Another is Healing Sunday. A delight to share with you.


Cawte, J., 1996. Healers of Arnhem Land. Sydney: UNSW Press.

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Clark, A. W. & Yeomans, N. T. 1969. Fraser House - Theory, Practice and Evaluation of a Therapeutic Community New York: Springer Pub. Co.

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Yeomans, N., Clark, A. W., Cockett, M., & Gee, K. M., 1970. Measurement of Conflicting Communications in Social Networks. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 9, Page 275-281.

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